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Doing a clean install with ATYPICAL constraints

I'm having problems with initial use of mariadb on Debian Testing.
The *apparent* symptom is never being asked to provide an initial password an failure in creating one later.

Operator error is high on list of possible causes ;/
However, >50 of trouble shooting experience hints at more.
I've a gut feeling that system history plays a significant role - for you math types, think path dependent integrals.

A proper test procedure will be reasonably straight forward to specify.
  1. A clean install of Debian Testing to a new partition using netinst
     Expert mode for maximum control
     Specify only MATE desktop and "standard utilities"
  2. Install Apache2 and mariadb-server using which ever tool will
     leave the most complete audit trail. I prefer Synaptic as that
     is what I used before.
  3. Archive relevant logs (I've > 300GB of available SSD ;)
     Someone will have to guide me to desirable logs to preserve.
  4. Document failure of system to request defining initial password
  5. Document failure to be able to define password
  6. Repeat steps 1 thru 5 as required

I'm up against a data cap. I estimate that between what I have left for this month and what I have left in my "bank", I can do *ONE* iteration of the above.

I've never intentionally removed anything from any cache Synaptic and apt-get have used since installing Testing.

Is there any way to use such for a fresh install?
Is there any way to set up the install to have a local cache of everything I download this time around?


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